What You Can Learn About Collaboration From Eric McCormack

Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/GettyPhoto: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty

Emmy-winning sitcom star Eric McCormack spent years as a member of one of TV’s most-loved ensembles, the four friends at the heart of Will & Grace. Now the actor is back with another multi-character show, the high-concept science-fiction Travelers.

Late last year, McCormack talked to Courtney Shea about working collaboratively and the value of ego in group dynamics. Here are three things you can learn from their conversation, which you can read in full here.

On creative collaboration

“On Will & Grace, the creators knew exactly what they wanted. They came from the traditional world of TV writing, where it was, ‘Here are the jokes—you deliver them.’ Debra Messing and I kept speaking up and offering our suggestions. At first the writers weren’t so keen. It was Jim Burrows, our legendary director, who said to them, ‘You have four very smart actors here—you should listen to them.’ That started a collaboration that was very different from anything else that was going on at the time.”

On managing competing egos

“There’s a lot of ego in show business. But there’s a lot of ego in any business, and it can threaten any group dynamic. It’s about balance. You can’t fully bury your ego; it’s what allowed me to speak up and be part of the creative process.”

On setting the tone

“On Will & Grace, we would hear from guest stars that it was the most pleasant set they had ever been on. That was very much an intentional thing. As soon as we shot the pilot, the four of us had a little meeting and said, ‘Let’s not treat anybody the way we have all been treated.’ We all had experiences. I guest-starred on Ally McBeal once, and nobody talked to me. I was like, ‘Anybody? Anybody?’ We didn’t want to be those guys.

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